The Case Against Reality

A professor of cognitive science argues that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses.

lead_960As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.

Not so, says Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. Hoffman has spent the past three decades studying perception, artificial intelligence, evolutionary game theory and the brain, and his conclusion is a dramatic one: The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality. What’s more, he says, we have evolution itself to thank for this magnificent illusion, as it maximizes evolutionary fitness by driving truth to extinction.

Getting at questions about the nature of reality, and disentangling the observer from the observed, is an endeavor that straddles the boundaries of neuroscience and fundamental physics. On one side you’ll find researchers scratching their chins raw trying to understand how a three-pound lump of gray matter obeying nothing more than the ordinary laws of physics can give rise to first-person conscious experience. This is the aptly named “hard problem.”

Full Article In The Atlantic


Vajra Bell

Welcome to Vajra Bell


The Vajra Bell is a quarterly newsletter covering events and news at Aryaloka Buddhist Center and other Triratna Buddhist centers in North America. In each issue you’ll find insightful articles on Buddhist topics, updates from around the continent, reviews of Buddhist books and other media, poetry and artwork created by sangha members, and a full list of local upcoming events.

What does Vajra Bell mean? Vajra means thunderbolt or diamond, that which cuts through all obstacles to Enlightenment. The vajra is the symbol of a union of opposites, the ultimate expression of wisdom and compassion. A vajra bell rings out far and wide the melody of transcendental reality. As a newsletter, the Vajra Bell is a rich and rewarding read that brings our sangha together in common spiritual practice.

Each issue is available for download in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format or can be viewed online here at The Buddhist Centre Online. To view the full archive online, please visit

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If you are a member of the Triratna Buddhist Community in North America and would like to create print copies for your local sangha, or if you would like to contribute or comment on the Vajra Bell, please contact the Editor-in-Chief, Eric Wentworth, at [email protected].


The Autumn 2016 issue…

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A Few Glimpses – Triratna NYC’s Fire Island Retreat 2016

steps-2016-web-img_2284A Few Glimpses – Triratna NYC’s Fire Island Retreat 2016

Each morning, we rose early to watch the sky and sea slowly brighten, offer a shifting array of colors from the deepest greys and blue to pinks, yellows, and oranges. Then the sun seeming to pop up over the horizon in seconds, and the day had begun.

Our days were dedicated to meditation and study, with Kamalashila instructing us in the elements practice, including a unique visualization meditation. We made strong connections between each of the elements and our surroundings

Of course, there was also plenty of mindfulness and metta.

Throughout, the sound of the surf was ever-present, crashing, subsiding, always changing.

Our program left us plenty of time to enjoy the island, with walks on the beach, and simply lying in the sun. Several of us swam in the cold, pounding surf, keeping an eye to make sure that everyone who went into the water came out.

By the light of a very full moon, we held an elements puja, and finished it on the beach, dancing, singing, and generally cavorting as the pale but bright light reflected off the surf.

Neal organized an impromptu ceremony on impermanence, reading from the tiny book in which he had been writing a line from the Heart Sutra, “Gone, gone, gone beyond gone” over and over. Then moving us to the fireplace, where we watched it burn. Neal also put his firemaking skills to use throughout the retreat.

Vajramati demonstrated his skills as a chef as well as our Sangha leader, keeping us well-fed throughout. Fay regaled us with tales of her family’s history with the old house, and her childhood summers spent playing on the beach. Russ shared a poem inspired by our days of study and practice on the elements. Even the trip itself was an important part of the journey. On the ferry ride out, the sun set behind us as the moon rose ahead. Beautiful.


Other Years


The Buddha, Bhante and Babasaheb – Talk1, Part 1

The Buddha, Bhante and Babasaheb – Talk1, Part 1

The Buddha, Bhante and Babasaheb – Talk1, Part 1 from thebuddhistcentre on Vimeo.

Dhammachari Suvajra spent many years with our sangha in India. In response to comments about the relevance of Sangharakshita’s teaching to Ambedkar devotees, he draws out eight of Bhante’s main contributions to Triratna and links them directly to the Buddha and Babasaheb.

In part one of his first talk, he highlights Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels as the most central act that defines our sangha as Buddhist and thereby links us all as a worldwide community.



New York Today: How to Meditate on Your Commute

It doesn’t have to be so stressful. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times


Updated, 8:00 a.m.

Good morning on this flawless Friday.

As subways become increasingly overcrowded and delayed, we’re guessing that your daily commute is becoming a more stressful affair.

Well, dear reader, we wish you a peaceful and pleasurable trip to work this morning however you’re arriving, and here’s something that might help you achieve that: meditation.

According to research, meditation can help ease mental tension, and it might also improve sleep, fight depressionand illness, and reduce lower back pain.

A straightforward and accessible technique is mindfulness meditation, said David Gelles, a reporter at The Times who recently wrote a guide to meditation.

Full article New York Times


Engaged Buddhist Training


Engaged Buddhist Training from ecodharma centre on Vimeo.

To meet the social and ecological challenges of our times requires deep inner resources, interpersonal skills and fresh political thinking. Engaged Buddhist Training equips us for this kind of radical inner and outer transformation. Check out the work we’ve been developing at We hope it inspires you to join us!


Free Orientation – Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction


Free MBSR Orientation July 13th, 6:45pm
(required if you intend to register for the class*) *If you cannot attend the Orientation, please contact Savanna at [email protected] to schedule a phone interview.

WHAT IS Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)? In this program you will learn to access and cultivate your natural capacity to actively engage in caring for yourself and find greater balance, ease, and peace of mind. MBSR uses meditation, yoga, inquiry and informal daily mindfulness practices as a way of training people to relate differently to the stresses in their lives.

The Skills • Practical coping skills • Methods for being more at ease • Strengthen the body and release muscular tension • Greater awareness • Face change with greater ease and creativity • Be more proactive and less reactive

The Process The class meets once a week for 2 ½ hours and is a combination of mindfulness practices, group sharing of experience with practice, and exploration of topics such as mindfulness, stress, and communication. In addition, there is an All Day of practice that occurs between the 6th and 7th week of the 8-week program and some at-home practice.

The History MBSR was created by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn who founded in 1979 the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It was originally developed for patients in chronic pain, undergoing intensive treatments for cancer, AIDS and other serious illness, but has since expanded and been incorporated into the daily lives of ten of thousands of people, whether they are dealing with the stress of illness or the stress of daily life.

Read more about MBSR here:

• Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Summer Cycle 2016 

Frequently Asked Questions about MBSR If you are considering taking an MBSR course, take a moment to read this FAQ If you would like further information please contact Savanna Jo Luraschi at [email protected].

Want to learn more about MBSR?  Check out the research here.


Meetings with Dhardo Rimpoche, one of Sangharakshita’s main teachers. (part one)

Meetings with Dhardo Rimpoche (part one) from Clear Vision Trust on Vimeo.

In 1987 Clear Vision filmed Dhardo Tulku Rimpoche, one of Sangharakshita’s main teachers and friends, whose life profoundly influenced how the FWBO/Triratna Buddhist Community developed. Two fascinating programmes resulted.

In part one Dhardo Rimpoche talks about: his discovery as an incarnate Lama; the early years of training; his gurus; why he journeyed to India; developing a monastery at Bodh Gaya; major turning points in his spiritual life and the importance of meditation.

Watch part two here